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Rebels for the System? Virus Writers, General Intellect, Cyberpunk and Criminal Capitalism

  • O'Neil M
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Abstract

In recent years there have been numerous reports of attacks against computer systems around the world by viruses created by 'computer hackers'. It is asserted in the media that the time and energy required to assess and repair the damage caused by this malicious software, sometimes known as 'malware', is proving increasingly costly to corporations. The seriousness of the threat posed by rogue computer programmers to the economic system seems to be borne out by actions such as that undertaken by Microsoft in November 2003, when it offered a bounty of $250,000 for information leading to the capture of the authors of the Sobig virus and MSBlast.A worm. In our networked world, nothing, it seems, could be more disruptive than the break up of the global flows of data resulting from this electronic sabotage. 'Hackers' are commonly divided into law-abiding and lawbreaking programmers. This article aims to question whether the distinction is justified, in the context of globalized capitalism. However, for clarity's sake, the terms 'virus writers' or 'computer intruders' will be used when referring to lawbreaking individuals and groups, and 'legitimate hackers' when referring to law-abiding individuals and groups. Yet since all of these individuals and groups share a commitment to autonomy, for example the freedom to access information without restrictions, the term 'hacker' will be used when referring indiscriminately to those people who engage in 'hacking', the unauthorized or uncontrolled use of computers.

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APA

O’Neil, M. (2006). Rebels for the System? Virus Writers, General Intellect, Cyberpunk and Criminal Capitalism. Continuum, 20(2), 225–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304310600641760

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